Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Project Managing Magic: Chaos, Complexity and Strategic Sorcery

See article by “December PM World Today eJournal” called: “Project Management, Chaos theory and the Butterfly Effect” by By Robert Gordon & Wanda Curlee.

Article summary: In the beginning it seemed that Order reigned supreme; then chaos theory came along and eventually gained traction. Chaos theory has given rise to Complexity theory and Project Managers are today struggling with handling complexity.

In fact the theme of this year’s Project Management Institute (PMI) one day meeting held in Reading, United Kingdom was all about managing complexity. In the article referenced above, there are three quotes in particular that caught my attention:
“The butterfly effect is the understanding that all forces are connected. Taking this to project management, when a project is moving forward, is best to try to put all the forces working in the same direction.”
From a kabbalistic viewpoint, all of reality (both seen and unseen) is connected. The above quote also relates to “as above, so below”. In other words since things are interconnected, in order to get things moving above it also needs to get moving below (or vice versa).
“What makes complexity theory different than the traditional open systems theory is that the theory acknowledges that there are parts of the system that cannot be explained but acknowledges that there is normalcy in the randomness (Byrne, 1998).”
Also in magical working there is (in my understanding) an acknowledgment that there are parts of the system that cannot be explained or understood. Whether it is the means that a spirit, god, or other entity achieves a desired result or the way that a magical act has a manifest effect on reality – if this was fully understood it would fall in the realm of rational science rather than magical thinking.
“Seasoned project managers realize that all parts of the projects cannot be controlled; nor would they want to have full control of the project.”
I would like to put forward the hypothesis that also in the realm of magical working that not all parts can be controlled. In fact, from what I have read trying to exert too much control on the desired means by which a result can manifest will often result in undesired effects. That’s not to say that a working should be done and then forgotten about. Head for Red recently posted an article about keeping focus on amulets once they were in use.

So what about the scenario in which an initiate uses multiple paths to achieving a result? Let’s call that a “strategic approach” of coming at a problem from multiple angles at the same time. Well, that is exactly what this article is about. Taking in to account: 1) butterfly effect, 2) unexplained parts of the system and 3) trying not to control all parts. This means that trying to get all the paths working together is a fine balancing act, keeping the project from collapsing in to chaos and managing the complexity by trying to break it down as much as possible.

My experience as a Project Manager has been that clear and well understood communication paths are essential for managing a complex project. Not only to make sure that the right communication happens at the right time, to the right people in the right way – but also to make sure that such communication did not generate any additional complexity of its own.

OK, so even writing that last sentence has my head spinning. Now think about what the effects might be if an initiate uses a talisman, curse and servitor or summoned entity (i.e. lots of different ways) to get a desired outcome. They might all work, but how will they interact with each other?

With this line of reasoning I find myself arguing against the approach taken by Strategic Sorcery , in the sense that using too many approaches to solve a single problem increases complexity and hence risk beyond what is necessary. However, I acknowledge that my scant theoretical knowledge of magic and sorcery outweighs by practical knowledge by quite a bit.

So in conclusion I think that this needs further investigation - by trying out a single approach to solve a problem or multiple approaches at the same time. Perhaps the multipath approach simply increases the percentage chance of meeting success criteria. On the other hand (based on complexity as experienced in projects and other areas of work), the multipath approach could lead to “interference” between avenues to success and possibly even increased probability of undesired side-effects.